Taliban promises to avenge former leader Mullah Mansour’s death
Innocent civilians caught in a crossfire between Taliban and the Afghan Government
Security experts say there is no hope of peace in the distant future
Mullah Mansour, former leader of the Taliban, was killed in US drones strikes last week in Pakistan, a year after he assumed the leadership role. The terrorist organization has promised to avenge its leader’s death in the most violent ways possible, a development greatly regretted by the civilians of Afghanistan.
Ever since September 2015, Taliban had been performing increasingly lethal attacks against the Afghan Government, ruthlessly destroying the settlements of civilians along the way. Families have been carelessly torn apart with no one to sympathize with their pain and sorrow. The battle of Kunduz, which commenced in April 2015 in an effort by the Taliban forces to take control of the city, assumed a more savage form with the onset of the Mansour leadership.
With each execution of leaders and appointment of new ones, life becomes harder for the average citizen in Afghanistan. These poor civilians, who are not concerned with either the Taliban or the Afghan government, helplessly suffer the worst forms of inhumanity. Rape, molestations, murders and kidnappings are some of the basic mistreatments hurled at these poor souls through the course of this long and everlasting war. TOLO News, Afghanistan’s first 24-hour broadcasting service, after its report on the ill doings of the Taliban, received multiple threats from the organization, which claimed the report to be false.
Mohammed Ali Mohammadi, who worked for Kaboora, a production company affiliated with TOLO News, was killed by Taliban suicide bombings in January, leaving behind his wife and two children to fend for themselves in these troubled times. Similarly, another innocent civilian, Saifullah was killed in a massive car bomb attack in Kabul last month, with his father, wife and five children mourning his death.
These stories are just a couple among thousand others, and yet, even through these times of turmoil, security experts and sources close to Taliban have disclosed that peace cannot be expected in the near future. A UN report from February illustrates the fact that more than 3,500 civilians were killed in 2015, and an appalling one in four deaths were that of a child’s, a big rise as compared to last year’s records, making this the highest number of deaths noted.
The appointment of a new leader brings little hope for an end to this widespread bloodshed. Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada is believed to be a tough military hardliner who has no intentions of ceasefire and will only fuel this warfare further. Although Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, on behalf of the afghan government, has issued an ultimatum to the new leader, to lay down arms and resume normal life, or face the same fate as Mullah Mansoor, analysts believe it won’t be of any help, as it calls for an immediate surrender instead of negotiation and peace talks, something that the terrorist organization will not digest.
Written by Saurabh Bodas.
Saurabh studies Mechatronics Engineering at Manipal Institute of Technology.
When a U.S. district judge last month ruled a federal ban on female genital mutilation unconstitutional, he undercut the federal government and alarmed anti-FGM activists, who hope to eradicate the practice.
The World Health Organization calls FGM, also known as female circumcision, a human rights violation of women and girls, with no health benefits.
Some 200 million women and girls around the world, mainly in Africa, have experienced FGM, the WHO says.
In his opinion, Judge Bernard Friedman called FGM “despicable,” but also “a local criminal activity” that must be addressed at the state level. In enacting a federal law, he said, Congress overstepped.
Now, local lawmakers, advocates and newspapers are calling for state bans that equal or surpass the scope of the federal law that was struck down.
The case Friedman ruled on centers around Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, an emergency room physician accused of performing FGM on at least 100 girls in Michigan for more than a decade.
Prosecutors have focused their case on nine girls, aged 7 to 12, from three states. The girls allegedly were subjected to FGM with the aid of Nagarwala and seven others, including the girls’ mothers.
Defense attorneys say the procedure amounted to only a “nick” on the girls performed as part of a religious ritual — not FGM. But they also argued in July that the federal law banning FGM is unconstitutional.
State Senator Rick Jones, who represents Michigan’s 24th district, told VOA by phone that he was shocked to learn about Nagarwala’s case and strongly disagrees with Friedman’s ruling.
Last year, Jones became the spokesperson for a package of bills outlawing FGM statewide. The legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Now, Michigan has some of the toughest FGM laws in the country.
Health-care providers convicted of performing FGM face up to 15 years in prison, along with the permanent loss of their medical licenses. Parents who take their daughters to doctors to be cut can lose custody.
The 1996 federal law, meanwhile, stipulated up to five years in prison and fines for medical providers who perform FGM.
“We wanted to send a strong message around the world: Never again bring your girls to Michigan for this horrible procedure,” Jones said.
Across the U.S., 27 states have passed laws banning FGM, many of which have been written in recent years and include penalties that go beyond the federal law, which also criminalizes so-called “vacation cutting,” the practice of taking girls out of the United States to have FGM performed overseas.
News organizations are among those pushing for an expansion of state laws. Last month, the Seattle Times editorial board called for a ban in Washington, one of 23 states yet to outlaw FGM.
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times editorial board said all 50 states should ban the “barbaric” practice, in light of Friedman’s ruling.
The health-care providers and families involved in the Michigan case belong to Dawoodi Bohra, a Shi’ite Muslim sect based in India with about 2 million followers worldwide.
According to a study published earlier this year, FGM, called khafd in Dawoodi Bohra communities, is widespread in the sect and involves cutting the clitoral hood or part of the clitoris, without an anesthetic, when girls turn seven.
The study, commissioned by WeSpeakOut, an advocacy group focused on eradicating khafd, also found that three-quarters of Dawoodi Bohra women have experienced FGM.
The severity and nature of FGM can vary.
Health-care providers have identified four types of FGM. Khafd involves Type 1 FGM. Other types involve removing all of the external genitalia and narrowing the vaginal opening.
Jones rejects the idea that there’s a religious basis for the procedure, however it’s performed.
“Across the world, this has been practiced by Christians, pagans, Muslims, even a small Jewish sect in Ethiopia,” he said.
“This is not about a religion,” he added. “This is about men attempting to control women’s behavior by this horrible procedure.”
The WHO identifies both short-term and permanent harms associated with the practice. Immediate concerns include severe pain, infections and, in some cases, death. Long term, women and girls subjected to FGM face a range of physiological and psychological complications that can affect menstruation, childbirth and sexual health.
The United States has been unequivocal in condemning the practice, saying “the U.S. government considers FGM/C to be a serious human rights abuse, and a form of gender-based violence and child abuse” on a fact sheet posted to the Citizenship & Immigration Services website.
Education and legislation
Friedman’s November decision is the latest in a series of setbacks for prosecutors.
Nagarwala spent seven months in 2017 in jail before 16 friends posted a $4.5 million unsecured bond, against the pleas of prosecutors, who argued Nagarwala could silence potential witnesses or even flee the country if released.
And in January, the judge dismissed charges that Nagarwala and a second doctor, Fakhruddin Attar, transported minors with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, an offense that carries a lifetime sentence.
Nagarwala still faces conspiracy and obstruction charges that could result in decades in prison.
The trial is now set to begin next April, the Detroit Free Press reported last month. However, the prosecution could appeal last month’s decision, drawing the case out further.